In the aftermath of an increase in gun violence in the city eight years ago, activist and youth worker Louis March was part of a community delegation that went to Ottawa to meet with then Prime Minister Paul Martin about funding for sustainable programs to engage young people.
In the first six months of this year, gun violence has claimed a dozen youths, including three 15-year-old boys in a six-week span earlier this year.
“I don’t want to have to make another trip to Ottawa,” said March at the launch of The Zero Gun Violence Movement last week at Redemption & Reintegration Services (RRS) in Scarborough. “I know we have the resources to make a significant difference for young people. When you hear young girls saying they have attended more funerals than weddings and boys telling you it’s easier to get a gun than a job, you know something is very wrong.”
Conceived by March, the organization kicked off a 90-day summer campaign that will seek to re-engage the public, businesses and institutions about the debilitating effects of gun violence on communities while advocating for new resources from private business and enhanced community collaborations.
“What we are doing here is trying to remove apathy from our community,” said RRS executive director, Victor Beausoleil. “We are trying to ensure that constituents in the city really care about gun violence. I feel many of them have been desensitized and we really want to be part of a city where no one tolerates gun violence. As individuals, we can’t stop the violence. As a collaborative, we can build collaborations to engage systems and try to set up new infrastructures around young people to provide meaningful opportunities.”
A married father of three children, Beausoleil has lost several friends to gun violence.
“For me, it leaves a lasting impact on your consciousness,” he said. “Gun violence creates a dynamic where you feel that you are living in a city that sometimes doesn’t care about certain types of demographics. I think we really want to change that discourse and ensure that no matter what postal code you are in, the whole city should care when a shooting takes place.”
African-Canadian Coalition of Community Organizations director, Donna Harrow, said collaboration is key.
“It’s important for us as organizations in the city along with government ministries and the private sector to look at this in a holistic way,” said Harrow.
March said it’s time Black churches join the rally to reduce gun violence.
“Right now, they are very good at growing their congregation,” he said. “What about these churches donating an offering to a community group?”
Nearly 15 community organizations have pledged to support The Zero Gun Violence Movement.
BY RON FANFAIR